B2B’s Problem with Pay-Per-Click: Three Things You Need to Know

I have personally run pay-per-click (PPC) programs for the companies I have worked for, and I have worked with agencies that specialize in PPC claiming to have proven track records in B2B. PPC is always challenging in B2B, and is clearly a different animal than the more transactional sale that PPC was clearly designed for.

ppc kleyPPC is expensive, difficult to manage, and requires a lot of specialized experience and expertise to run it properly – including every kitchen-sink component of the Demand Generation arsenal from keyword selection to budgeting and management to landing page optimization (because clicks don’t always equal conversions) to copywriting to lead management and more. The PPC rewards can seem sweet (page one, anyone?), but are often bitter when the daily budget runs out before 10:00 AM and the CMO asks you why your ad isn’t running when he or she ran a search on an “important” term. Not to mention how difficult it can be to trace any of those conversions to actual sales, and how the “brand” value is tenuous at best.

Here are some tips on how to effectively run PPC for B2B:

Forget the traditional PPC success metrics-
Ignoring the metrics that PPC experts across the world get excited about can be a very difficult thing to do. You may be advised to go after high-traffic keywords on the periphery of your space because of the impressions they drive, or you may be tempted to divert money from a low-conversion ad group to a higher-converting one because volume of conversions is supposed to equal success. Keywords and phrases you know are important get shuffled to the bottom of the pile because they don’t drive search volume. Popular phrases and terms are crushingly expensive and drive clicks, but often from window shoppers and tire kickers (which can be incredibly expensive and difficult to identify in B2B). The bottom line is this – you need to accept the fact that B2B shouldn’t be engaged in PPC to drive a high volume of clicks.

It’s OK if your PPC agency is freaking out because they are not able to show you high click-through and a low volume of impressions. Understand that they are freaking out because that is how all of their other clients measure success. It is your job to educate them that they are safe as long as they remember one thing … a B2B customer is typically a LOT more valuable than a B2C customer … and that you don’t measure success in clicks and impressions.

The goal is to make sure that a Buyer who is on the cusp of making a decision will see your ad, and that your ads’ keywords and ad copy will be informed by a well-researched understanding of the pains and priorities of the Buyer at every stage of the buying cycle. Your imperative is to drive revenue by engaging the Buyer with the right message at the right time, not to capture someone with a passing interest in that thing they heard someone mention at Dreamforce last week. In order to do that, you need to follow the next step….

Embrace the long tail-
People search very differently than they did just a few years ago. Google knows this, as their latest update very much reflects the growing tendency to ask questions rather than simply type short phrases into the search window. People are still searching on things like “Marketing Automation,” but they are also searching on things like “Marketing Automation impact on Lead Management” much more frequently – and that type of search is more likely to yield a Buyer that is doing serious research and is possibly ready to engage with a vendor. In B2B, it is OK to miss those general searches, as long as you capture the ones that are more indicative of someone who is actively researching the problems and priorities that your products or services serve. After all, wouldn’t a Demand Generation firm rather capture a lead from someone searching on “Demand Generation strategy services” than just plain old “Demand Generation”? Which one is more indicative of an actual buyer, and which drives more impressions and clicks?

Focus on lead management-
B2B conversions often take a very long time to prove their value, unlike a T-shirt sale or television purchase, which can be proven in minutes or less. The average sales cycle in B2B takes months, and over the course of that time a lot can happen to a lead. The waters of where it came from can get muddied by a lot of factors, including multiple touches by marketing and sales both. I don’t want to get into a debate over first touch or last touch attribution for a B2B sale, because it is important to understand that all of those touches play an important and valuable role in understanding exactly what it takes to close a deal.

I will say that if you run PPC it is vital to understand if a lead came in via a paid search campaign, and what the terms were that they responded to. If you close 5 deals a year at more than $100K each from PPC, than it is much easier to justify a $10K per month budget — and it is vital to know which ads and keywords drove the folks that actually made a purchase.

Lead management and tracking is vital, because without it all you are measuring is clicks.

Author: Jason Stewart @Jstewart_1 is VP of Strategy, ANNUITAS

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